My Fair Lady is a classic musical based on the play Pygmalion. In the Broadway musical and movie, a simple street flower vendor meets a phonetics professor who bets he can turn this flower girl into a sophisticated lady who could mingle with high society without anyone suspecting her background. His belief this was possible was key in making it happen, and he even convinced her it could happen. The professor’s confidence never failed even when it looked impossible, and in the end it succeeded— so well, in fact, that she began to act her new station in life and started making demands of the professor.
The Pygmalion Effect refers to a self-fulfilling prophecy. In a study conducted over a century ago, a psychologist led teachers of a class of elementary school students to believe that certain children were “intellectual bloomers” who would excel over the other students during the school year. Actually he just randomly picked some names with no regard to their abilities. The teachers then proceeded to spend more time with the bloomers and telegraph higher expectations of them to the class. Those children then did better over the school year as a group, exactly as the psychologist had predicted — except he had no valid reason to make that prediction.
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a feedback loop, also known as a causality loop, where expectation of something helps make it happen. In a friendship, someone may be so worried that the relationship will fail as to sabotage it with smothering attention, act in odd ways around the person, or otherwise make that person uncomfortable, resulting in the friendship breaking up. Self-fulfilling prophecies can be positive or negative. Nearly a century ago Orson Welles performed a radio play based on the novel The War or the Worlds, and some hearing the broadcast considered the alien warfare being described as being a real newscast. The result was mass panic, stampedes, and suicides. On the positive side, a self-made millionaire studied 1,200 wealthy people and realized that their attitudes were critical in their successes, as the rich people would usually set high expectations. He simply did the same and wound up joining their ranks.
During the COVID outbreak, which blasted onto the scene somewhat like the War of the Worlds play, with rumors of death and destruction from this super virus, many expected the worst and did everything they could to avoid it, from wearing masks even when outside or alone in their cars, to becoming hermits in their own homes. The procedures for dealing with COVID became political, with some states imposing draconian measures while other states stayed largely open for many months while the outbreak raged. According to an article in the New York Post, the more open states recovered faster economically than the more closed states because they took a less fearful approach to COVID. It was debated as to whether they had less deaths from COVID or not, but they lived better and freer than their counterparts.
Today, there is still controversy as to whether closing society was effective in saving lives in the long run. Staying away from others for extended periods of time led to severe problems: overall depression increased, other diseases, including cancer, rose during the period, lack of socialization led to mental issues for many children, and suicides took a higher share of lives during the COVID years. China attempted long-term lockdowns across the country which led to massive riots that forced even their totalitarian government to relent and open up their society. When American schools finally opened up, massive use of masks caused speech problems for some children, because part of learning to speak is visual. Fear may not have caused COVID to spread, but it certainly harmed lives beyond the damage that COVID did on its own.
What about us?
Now let’s get personal. We experience self-fulfilling prophecies frequently in our own lives. We skip meeting a person who would have been a great friend just because we are afraid of rejection. We don’t try to get ahead financially because we consider ourselves part of some victim class that doesn’t get fair treatment in the work world. When it comes to our own health, we do this all the time: either we think that lifestyle will make a positive difference in our health and embrace it, doing those things that we know will make us healthier and stronger, or we give up, eat and lounge as we feel like doing, and we then get what we expect — a lackluster life and state of health (at best). Our bodies react to our attitudes, with hope and high expectation giving us life and energy; with fear, worry, or lack of hope tearing us down and depressing both mind and body. Our very cells “hear” what we are thinking, and this shows up in health or disease.
Like any disease, COVID’s success in our bodies depends on the thoughts our cells hear. Even the potential to contract COVID in the first place is influenced by our mental state, but beyond that, how we react post COVID is also heavily influenced. Long COVID, where the symptoms linger for weeks or months, may be responding to an immune system weakened by our expectations. We’ve already suffered through many months of news of deaths and suffering that was well propagated by various media. The news media seemed to take delight in reporting death statistics at every opportunity. We’ve been conditioned to fear COVID, and that fear is still pervasive. Ironically, the COVID strains have become less deadly over time, following a typical script for unstable viruses where they shift to being more infectious but less deadly — viruses thrive most when they can spread and multiply better but kill less hosts (that halts their spread — they need live hosts). Thus, modern COVID strains are less to be feared today, becoming more like a strong flu. A flu can, and regularly does, kill those who are too weak to fend it off, but we don’t hear regular statistics on the news about these. We’ve been conditioned to fear COVID.
Published in Psychosomatic Medicine is a review article where researchers from the University of Marburg, Germany reviewed data of PCR-positive (polymerase chain reaction) patients and compared them against “psychosomatic symptom burden” levels at 3 and 6 months after COVID. These were the results: “psychosomatic symptom burden (measured by the Somatic Symptom Disorder-B Criteria Scale) predicted higher odds and magnitude of COVID-related symptom impairment in the post-COVID phases.” In other words, they found that after 3 and 6 months, those who had lingering symptoms, especially strong symptoms, carried heavier mental burdens. The Disorder-B Scale did not specify the source of the mental burdens — those most burdened may have been worried or stressed out over many different things, so the study used a second scale, the “Fear of COVID Scale” to attempt to isolate the impact of COVID worries over the others. Here too the results showed higher odds of any COVID symptoms, as well as higher levels of symptoms, after the initial infection stage was completed for those with a high COVID fear. So fear of COVID itself, and the expectation of suffering with the illness, made a feedback loop reinforcing long COVID.
This can be said of any disease: stress makes it worse, and may have helped bring it about in the first place. What often happens after someone receives a cancer diagnosis? Usually fear grips them. That’s understandable, but doesn’t help deal with the disease. Fear and worry are thought-driven emotions, and they broadcast throughout the body. And this shows up mosts dramatically in the immune system.
We will be weakened by any chronic fear, worry, or anger. In an extensive review of studies article published in the Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association, researchers from the University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY studied data from over 300 empirical articles relating to the relationship between psychological stress and the immune system. First they broke types of stress into two categories: acute and chronic. Acute stress did not generally show lasting immune change, meaning that sudden stress (basic “fight or flight”, where resolution, one way or the other, comes about quickly and stress levels soon drop to normal) doesn’t do harm. They further noted a subset of chronic stress they termed “distant stress”, referring to events in the distant past that made a lasting impact, continuing its influence into the present. They studied the effects of the various stresses on all the various cell types (leukocytes, neutrophils, lymphocytes, etc.) of the immune system. They found that the stressors “did not have any systematic relationship with enumerative measures of the immune system. They did, however, have negative effects on almost all functional measures of the immune system.” So people under stress may not show major changes in their blood tests, but nonetheless their immune systems are not doing an effective job. All this simply says that chronic stress, whether from ongoing worry or fear or from distant traumatic events (likely in childhood), impairs the immune system. And that opens the door to disease.
COVID, while it was a serious threat, especially in early forms, it also taught us a great deal. In a compressed time period a worldwide experiment occurred. We saw societal and individual responses to the sudden onset of the virus; and since it was so new, with horror stories abounding, fear broke out everywhere. We witnessed at least partial failure of all the mechanisms put in place to halt the spread of the virus. We saw how reacting in fear can hurt us with cures that are sometimes worse than the illness. But we also learned lessons that apply to any sickness, that fear of disease can create a self-fulfilling prophecy and drag us into the very disease we fear.
So what can we do? “Perfect love casts out fear.” Ultimately, our lives are not our own, and we are in the care of our loving Father-God, the creator and sustainer of all things. If we experience long COVID, something is dragging down our immune systems which should be able to fight it off. We don’t want fear to be self fulfilling. The first rule of life is to live…
Dr. Nemec’s Review
A few take-home messages from the research:
1. Under chronic stress, usually from subconscious stress programs produced in childhood, these affect immune functioning even if the white blood cells appear to have the normal number and ratio. This is a huge statement. What this says is chronic stress disables your police force. You still have the same number of police but they can’t do anything — they had all their weapons taken away. This is what chronic stress does.
2. Fear makes everything worse. It not only becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, it also weakens immune function. It throws off digestion, affects elimination, and actually throws your whole body and mind out of balance — and it doesn’t even have to be true! It just has to be believed. If you believe the worst situation that you can imagine in your mind, then that picture will manifest in your mind, and always in your body.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. It is always a self-fulfilling prophecy. What you believe is the most important factor in your health and your life.
“If you believe (and do not doubt) you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer”
This statement has a lot of power — way more than most even comprehend. Before we get to that, let’s start with some basics.
There are two different connotations to the word believe. One means what I believe today I might not believe tomorrow, because my belief is based on the facts that I am gathering, that are surrounding me in my environment — if those facts or environment changes, so does my belief. This belief is very changeable, very moldable by the environment.
There is another type of belief. This is more steadfast, more solid, more set in stone —
unmovable — and an unchangeable belief is a bold confidence, a knowing, an assurance, a trust. This belief is not environmentally changed, because it’s in a person — not in a place or a thing or condition.
Let me use this example: a four-year-old child. If they have normally balanced parents, those parents will have unconditional parental love towards their child. The child will know this because they grew up with this from birth. So the child has a bold confidence, a knowing and assurance, and trust that their parents will always be there, watching over them and protecting them. This is more accurately the true definition of believe.
So we say: if you believe you can, or you believe you cannot, you are right. This phrase goes so much deeper than the power of positive thinking. Does that four year old child believe they can venture out into the adult world with all these large people around them — they appear to be giants before them — but of course they do, because their parents are with them. It makes them bold because their parents have always told them, “I love you, and I’m always going to be there for you, and protect you and guide you,” so the child simply trusts and can go out boldly in the land of giants, with no fear at all. This belief of the child is not in positive thinking, not in their ability, but in what their parents believe and say to them.
“…if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”
The word “believe” means to trust in, to have confidence in, to think it is the truth, to be persuaded.
What’s the key in belief? The heart or the spirit is where the knowing comes from, not from the knowing in the mind, but the confidently knowing the truth, and the boldness that comes with that knowing that can only come in the heart, in the spirit — never in the mind.
So what are you asking for in prayer? Very simple. What are you believing in your prayer? This is very simple — just what your Father in Heaven has always told you. You are not working independently of Him. The child does not work independently from the parent. Prayer is not a wish list. Prayer is a restatement of what your Father already told you, already spoke to your heart — the question is have you been listening to what He has been saying to your heart or are you too busy listening to the world speak to the mind?
So let’s restate this: if you believe what your Father in Heaven spoke to your heart, then you will receive whatever you ask for because you are asking for what He already said He gave you.
Your belief, your trust, your confidence is not in your self. It’s always in your Father in Heaven.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
- Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
- Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
- Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.